By Natalie Carlier, Regional Field Coordinator, Civic Engagement Department, NCLR
This week in Florida, I stood alongside a coalition of partners that included workers, faith leaders, advocacy groups, and community members to urge Gov. Rick Scott (R) to veto HB 655, a bill that would prevent cities or counties from enacting worker benefit rights like earned sick time.
Latinos in Florida still face an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent, compared to 8.2 percent for all Floridians. We care about keeping the wages we earn and keeping our jobs if we need to stay home to recover from an illness or if we need to take our sick child to the doctor. Currently, 55 percent of Latinos around the country do not have earned sick time at work. That means the majority of Latinos around the country are forced to work with an illness for fear of losing their job. This is outrageous! This not only puts our own health at risk but our coworkers’ or clients’ health at risk when we show up to our jobs sick.
Efforts to undercut workers’ rights are not only an affront to hardworking Latinos but they’re an affront to our local economies. This is why I spoke out proudly at the Miami-Dade County Courthouse on Monday, as an NCLR and Latino representative, asking Gov. Scott to veto HB 655.
Echoing the messages at Monday’s press conference, our volunteer Ingrid Gomez Cuesta (pictured on the right) and other Orlando mothers from our statewide coalition drove to Tallahassee to deliver 11,000 petitions to Gov.Scott asking him to veto HB 655. This veto is critical for Ingrid because working women like her are affected the most when it comes to caring for their families. They frequently are forced to take time off work to care of their sick children or other family members.
When workers are forced to choose between their health and their paycheck, many choose the latter because they need their job to make ends meet and do it at the expense of their health. When asked why she got involved Ingrid said, “It is easy to surpass oneself, when individual motivations are strong, but more so, when the reasons are compelling fights.”
Earned sick time policies make sense for families and for the economy. Our economy cannot progress unless workers in Florida can earn not only enough to afford to spend money on the basics, like groceries and transportation, but can also earn sick time to afford to take care of themselves and their children. This is why workers’ rights are a Latino priority and why we support efforts that bolster these policies not those that undermine them.